Shattered Upside Down
A kotlc wings au
summary: When the world begins to crawl with unnaturally made monsters, the Keeper crew continue to fight like they always have. But a wrench is thrown in those plans when they themselves become less than human.
Chapter 1: The Descent
Word count: 7k
warnings: mild fantasy violence (nothing more than in canon), swearing
taglist: listed at the end beneath the cut, but let me know if you want to be added or removed
!!! Y’all!! It’s finally here!!! And you might be thinking, Quil they don’t have wings. To which I say: be patient!! this is a multi-chapter fic! this is just the groundwork <3
ao3 link here
or read beneath the cut
It was comical, really, just how quickly their security had crumbled into unbridled, ravaged chaos. They had relied on the extravagance of the Neverseen, always too brash, too bold, too eager for attention. They were self-sabotaging. They revealed their plans a moment too soon, wanting the world around them to see the cunning, the thought, to know which moments were their last.
And they’d played the part so clever, it hadn’t crossed a single mind that they were gracing more than one stage. That even when they weren’t putting on a show, they remained ingenuine.
The Black Swan had thought them comical storybook villains, all talk and poise. And then they’d slip, underestimating you and letting you swoop in last second, tossing wrenches in their gears and bringing them up short. A hero. Classic and overused, but a hero nonetheless.
It had been ludicrous to entertain the notion they could be capable of anything greater, anything deadlier. That they wanted to be stopped again and again. That they wanted to build the Black Swan’s confidence in themselves, wanted to be broken and bruised and battered and defeated again and again and again.
Because then who could consider them a threat?
Who would look for them, frail and scattered as they were?
They had all been lured into a false sense of security, taking the first deep, fulfilling breaths they’d had in years. And each day it came easier. Every passing second without disturbance relaxed their bodies and eased their minds. It had been months and months, long enough they felt safe. Actually safe. The idea was laughable now, but it had been true. The Neverseen were gone, dead and buried.
But villains work best from the grave.
The Ruewens noticed the shift first, although if you asked either of them they wouldn’t be able to tell you quite what it was. The subtle gleam gracing the teeth of each new animal they took in, each creature becoming more violent and vocal, tails thumping just a touch harder against the ground.
It was only a coincidence that seven times in a row the creatures were “uncharacteristically rough and wild for their species.” It only became worrisome when the docile creatures began to growl at anyone’s approach, even the ones that had already been tamed.
Then it all went to shit.
You wouldn’t have been able to tell from the outside; it was surrounded by one-way glass. Look through and all you’d see were splotches of amorphous green, running streams, sunlight soft and secure. But the view from inside was a completely different story. From inside you could see the creeping mold and blood caked along the sides of streams, the marks in the trees and the torn roots, ash where the sun had burned too bright, rusted mist raining down.
What a nightmare they’d made of paradise.
Except, somehow, the Lost Cities themselves had ended up on the outside of the glass, content to pretend the creatures roaming the hills were only a problem if they were near you, which they weren’t. So what a pack of rabid unidentifiable beasts attacked? They hadn’t been here, so it wasn’t a problem.
Then it became a problem.
The creatures moved closer, working their way through the land, ravaging their way towards the Lost Cities. The elves blinked and they were surrounded. Crystal castles tumbled into sand, stone pavement was ripped from the ground, trees torn and shredded, dripping with infection.
They’d had no choice but to leave it all behind. There’d been backlash of course, despite it being in everyone’s best interest. Those who were so attached to what they had, what had remained a constant in the past millennia of their lives that they were fully willing to risk themselves for it. There was no doubt though, that had they been allowed to remain they would’ve regretted it the moment those creatures came to their door, the ones they’d refused to believe were their problem.
So they’d all moved below ground, deep enough they couldn’t be reached. Every inch of surface available to them was dangerous, so they’d gone beneath it. The dwarves had graciously worked to hollow out living space for them all, creating entire kingdoms beneath the sand. And now they were much more powerful, carried more weight with each step, the responsibility they’d risen to clinging to them and eating them respect no one could deny.
They’d all be dead without them.
Not everyone was in one place, a few spots underground scattered throughout the world and it nearly impossible to travel between them. Light leaping didn’t work underground, and it was an incredible risk to brave the surface for a single leap. Once everyone had been settled, they’d stayed there. And they were still there.
I mean, what else could they do?
It had taken them a bit to work out just where these volatile creatures had come from, the ones now spanning the entirety of the world--although the humans were still unaware. Something about the pollution and overall vibe of the forbidden cities kept the monsters away from them.
A few had suggested moving to the forbidden cities as an alternative to living underground, but the disgust for the places quickly killed that idea.
The Black Swan was adamant that somehow the Neverseen had to be behind this. The organization had been the only enemy they’d ever had--and they were right, in a way. Despite months of silence, of nothing, of security, they must’ve done something.
But how, was the question.
Perhaps it would’ve been better had the question never been answered, if they’d all remained ignorant of what had been hidden right beneath them. Certainly, there would’ve been more resistance had every single elf shoved underground been kept in the dark.
But alas, illumination came tied with a silver ribbon.
One of the smaller creatures, really not much larger than a candle, had slipped into the residences, stirring up a ruckus in its frantic attempts to escape as it realized it was trapped below ground. It had been caught in a corner, hunched over away from the lights. The entirety of its body had been shaded by the large mushroom cap covering its head. It was only on closer inspection they realized the red, dripping mushroom was attached to its head. The rest of its body was disproportionately small and warped, grooves scorn into the skin.
They had been taking it back towards a small air vent--so they could release it onto the surface--when they’d seen the small clasp. It was imperceptibly small, silver in color, piercing the underside of the mushroom cap. It was a tag. An identification tag complete with a pin number.
If that hadn’t been enough proof that the creatures had been intentional, the symbolic eye entwined with a sturdy chain would’ve been enough. Their hearts stopped dead. That eye was unmistakably the Neverseen’s symbol, but that chain…
It was clearly another symbol, the two mixed. But--
Fuck. The creature in their hands had grown panicked and impatient, the space they’d thought was its body leering open to reveal rows upon rows of stubby teeth, all sharp edges and imperfections. They’d nearly dropped the creature in their panic to shove it into the air vent, closing it quickly behind as the sharp, tiny stomps faded as it climbed further and further away.
That creature had been created intentionally and the Neverseen had been a part of it, that much was certain. But there was someone else. Another force out there with enough influence and power to corrupt the entirety of nature’s balance, able to rewrite the story of evolution, and they were represented by a chain.
But who was it?
No matter how shallow her breaths, the overwhelming stench of musk and mold continued to coat her tongue and turn her stomach sour. Sophie exhaled slowly; it would do no good to dwell on what she couldn’t change. The rest of them weren’t faring much better, but the thin cloths over their faces provided a sliver of relief.
Sophie, Fitz, Keefe, Biana, Dex, Tam, Linh, Marella, Maruca, and Wylie. More people than they’d usually risk bringing on a mission, but it was a necessary risk for one of this magnitude.
She assumed the thick scent was coming from the swaths of unidentified plant life gorging it way up the sides of the tunnel, clinging to wet, crumbling rock and glowing faintly blue in the light. At the very least it provided slight illumination of the tunnel ahead, along with the branching pathways they occasionally crossed that likely led to collapsed rooms and dead ends. Mere months ago she would’ve been anxious over the thought that the ground above her would give way and crush them all in moments. Now, however, months living underground had made the ground above her a comfort more than anything. If there was enough soil between her and the surface, the creatures that roamed freely couldn’t get to her.
Although that didn’t exactly apply when they were heading straight into the breeding facility; the heart of the creatures, their origin, where they still poured out in lucrative amounts, a constant supply keeping the surface a hazard.
We’re only about a half-mile away, Dex informed them. He spoke into their shared mental space, kept in place by Sophie and Fitz’s combined efforts, eliminating the need for out-loud conversation. Some of the creatures--especially the ones that liked the dark--had particularly keen hearing, and the closer they got, the riskier any noise would be.
Her head snapped to the side as Biana skidded for a moment on a patch of gravel, sucking in a sharp, silent breath as she caught herself. They all winced, pausing to listen if the sound had caught the attention of anything nearby.
Biana didn’t bother to apologize, they all knew it was inevitable and unavoidable--and it couldn’t be undone.
Remember the plan? It was Fitz’s voice echoing through their heads this time, although it felt like he was trying to whisper despite it being mental. They all nodded in response, and Keefe patted his pocket, bulging with the same explosives they all carried.
Sophie cleared her mind, running through the plan--which she’d done so many times by now the exact words were likely permanently etched into her brain. At the end of this system of tunnels--which Dex was navigating them through--was the breeding facility. This breeding facility was where the creatures on the surface were created, and where they were still coming from. Old and new types alike. Sophie had a basic outline of the facility--it had been difficult enough to find the location, buried deep beneath the earth, getting specifics was impossible--and the areas they were to hit. Everyone had a stash of explosives, black cubes small enough you could wrap your fingers around them. They’d get in, set up the devices, get out, and detonate them once they were a safe distance away.
It was supposedly simple, but everyone had their own speculations about what could possibly go wrong; the most likely was that they would be caught in the act.
The tunnel began to widen, opening into a large cavern; but, as they looked up, they realized it hadn’t always been. Pillars rose around them towards an arching ceiling, carved designs gracing the stone. It appeared this place had once been a grand room, almost reminding her of Victorian castles, but the floor had collapsed into rubble, green vegetation covering nearly every inch.
Linh rotated her hand as she fluttered her fingers, seemingly almost absentmindedly. The leaves rustled faintly, in response to her call. She said nothing for a moment, and Sophie’d almost forgotten about it when Linh spoke up.
I wonder how these plants are able to flourish so far underground, seemingly on their own. A memory from only a few seconds ago flashed through the mindbubble--Keefe’s nickname that had stuck-- and as Sophie watched it she could feel the body memories of Linh tracing the water through the roots of the plants and into the ground, trying to find a source large enough to sustain this vegetation.
Linh shook her head, nodding to herself and to assure the others she remembered their goal, their mission. The reason they were here.
Adrenaline hummed through Sophie’s veins as she began to survey the walls, the bases of which were a good ten feet above her head. She could sense the rest of the group doing the same, but it was Tam’s searching shadows that found the entrance.
It was nearly buried in a corner, obscured by mounds of rock and swaths of green, but it was there.
Sophie briefly sent out a wave of consciousness into the mindbubble, assessing her team and assuring they were all prepared. They seemed to be, although Linh still seemed to be ruminating on the water in the room, fingers rubbing together rhythmically.
Releasing a slow breath, she crawled into the hole, small enough she couldn’t have even sat up comfortably. If Dex’s directions were to be trusted, this hole would lead into an old ductwork system in the back of the facility, and from there they could drop down and continue as planned. The ground was jagged against her palms, but at the very least her hands were slightly protected by her gloves--the same black everyone was wearing now. They must’ve donned them before crawling in behind her-including Linh.
It’s dead ahead, she said, having spotted the reflection of the ductwork up ahead. She couldn’t imagine it led to anywhere particularly important in the facility, as the air it would’ve brought in was absolutely foul. Whatever glistening substance coated her hands and soaked her knees was going to linger.
She came to a stop at the edge where the rock gave way to rusted metal, but a moment was all she allowed herself. Bracing, she slowly lowered her hand and weight onto the ductwork, hoping it would remain silent.
A small thud resounded as the metal bent, but that was it. She gave the clear to the group and continued forward, already wishing this part were over. The duct was significantly smaller than the already cramped tunnel, but at least the tunnel had glowing fungus to light the path. This was pitch black and tiny, requiring them to shimmy on their elbows with only the light of their pendants to guide them. She wasn’t good enough at night vision for it to help, and she wasn’t going to waste energy trying. She needed to save everything she had.
The group continued forward with bated breath as they searched for an opening in the pathway, everyone eager to escape this claustrophobic nightmare. It’ll be over soon, she reminded herself, but when Biana echoed back, Soon, she realized she’d spoken into the mindbubble. Her cheeks flushed for a moment, but it was quickly put out of her mind when she saw a change in the lighting up ahead.
There’s something coming up, she transmitted, hushed. Don’t know what though. There was palpable hope in the air; they were all wishing it was the opening they’d been waiting for, but no one wanted to be let down if it turned out it wasn’t.
Sophie attempted to maintain the quickest pace she could without making sound, but in her urge to get to that possible opening, she nearly kicked the side of the duct. The person behind her--likely Marella, she hadn’t looked--sucked in a breath as everyone froze.
After only a moment's pause, she began forward again, now at a much more reasonable pace as the shift ahead was confirmed to be a vent.
She came to a stop before the slits of the vent, peering down into the room below, sending out a sweep of her consciousness to see if she could hear any thoughts indicating people nearby. Determining it was clear, she slipped the small multipurpose tool from where it’d been stored in her sleeve and began to undo the screws. It made an awful groan when she tugged off the grate, and she gripped it tight in one hand as she gently slid out face first, catching herself and levitating the rest of the way down.
The ground was surprisingly further than she’d been expecting, a good thirty feet from the vent in the ceiling to the dusty ground. Her landing left footprints in the dust, but if everything went according to plan the place would be crumbling long before that would become a problem.
The rest of the group slowly drifted to the ground, emerging from the vent one-by-one in a way that almost made Sophie want to laugh. The fear curdling her blood was enough to keep it in her throat, though.
There didn’t seem to be anything in this room besides storage, discarded crates stacked surprisingly aligned, towers reaching up towards the ceiling. Brushing her fingers over the top of a nearby crate, she saw it had a label.
Curious, she tried to read it. Unfortunately, it was either written in ancient elven or some sort of cipher she didn’t understand. Still, she not only wanted to know what was inside, she needed to. If this was something that could be used to create more monsters, it needed to be destroyed.
As she set about opening the case, the others assumed their positions. Dex was already working on something in the corner, hacking the security system so they could monitor the cameras and place them on loop. Biana was near the door with Fitz, who appeared to be mentally scanning the nearby area for thoughts.
She grunted as she pushed the lid open, bracing it on her shoulder as she peered inside. Her stomach squirmed uncomfortably, and she very quickly closed the crate before anyone else could peek inside. She didn’t want them to see that.
This room has got to go, she whispered into the mindbubble, and while she could feel their curiosity, they didn’t push the issue. Wylie only nodded, removing one of his explosives from his pocket and wedging it between a few crates near the center of the room.
We’re clear to move ahead, Fitz said, and Dex seconded him, holding up his modified imparter. It appeared to connect directly into the camera feeds, where he could switch between different cameras and assess their surroundings.
As we move I’ll be placing the cameras each group is near on a loop, but try not to linger; it’s not a guarantee. Sophie nodded, and Dex passed his imparter near the door, which clicked unlocked.
The door pushed open, presumably by the now-invisible Biana, and they all filed out into the hall. It seemed to hit them all then, that this was truly happening; this was high stakes. At any moment they could be caught, but if they succeeded the entire place would hopefully fall on top of itself, burying these horrors permanently.
The halls were all the same murky, metal grey, as though trying to imitate the stone it had been carved from. Faint gouges could be seen in the walls, and the lights were flickering balefire, every few feet another ball of flame was placed, providing inconsistent illumination.
Sophie went left with Biana, Linh, Dex, and Maruca; Fitz went right with Keefe, Tam, Marella, and Wylie. They’d done their best to disperse abilities across the groups, but it still left each one lacking key assets. But that was unavoidable.
Biana--with Sophie’s help--ensured that their group remained visibly undetected, and she was grateful they had practiced moving in sync back home, otherwise, everyone would’ve tripped over each other. Systematically they made their way through the facility, not actively trying to hide evidence they’d been there but not going out of their way to make it obvious. The intention was that the plan would be executed and the place would be falling long before anyone would notice anything, so speed was their true ally.
Each explosive placed had the lump of anticipation in her throat rising steadily higher. This was truly happening. She kept reminding herself that in just an hour this would be over. However it ended, it would be over.
Footsteps sounded off to the side, and the group froze, pressing themselves into the corner of the room. Similar to all the others, it was stacked high with crates and racks of vials nearly up to hip height, organized this time by color. Sophie had placed her explosive underneath one of the vials, clearly visible to anyone who walked into the room.
Now they could hear voices as well, murmuring sharply as they came closer and closer to the room. Sophie could hear Biana’s pained gasps in the mindbubble, exerting extra energy to keep all five of them expertly hidden. Her fingers were clamped around Sophie’s own, nails digging into Sophie’s skin as she shook with the exertion.
There was a window in this particular room, so even a moment's slip could reveal them to the figures they watched stop in front of the glass. She memorized their faces, and could feel the others doing the same. A man with curling black hair and light brown skin, talking to someone much shorter than him, who looked to be no more than a child in a frilly gown, hair tangled and red. They were clearly having an argument of some sort, the girl stomping her foot dramatically.
Please don’t come in here. She wasn’t sure which of them had said it, but they’d all been thinking it. Biana would’ve if all her energy wasn’t going into keeping them invisible.
Is something wrong? Their anxiety must’ve been enough to send the message throughout the entirety of the mindbubble, not just their group, and Keefe’s concern echoed throughout their heads. When he got no response the others started chiming in, which at least meant they weren’t in any immediate danger if they had the luxury of checking in on them.
The nails dug further into her skin as the man outside the door sighed, swiping a keycard and unlocking the door, shoving it open with his shoulder as he continued to scold the girl.
“Absolutely you may not--” he began to say, one foot through the door frame, yet he still hadn’t looked, eyes on the girl. The voices in her head went silent, the adrenaline flooding her system drowning her alive until it was only that man and the explosive on the table, ever so visible.
He began to turn, eyes moving inside the room, door fully open as he stepped in.
The girl screamed. She screamed in frustration and stomped her feet and darted down the hallway, barely avoiding tripping on her elaborate gown.
The man’s attention whipped after her and he snarled something incoherent, stalking briskly after her, the door thudding shut behind him.
He left behind a thick silence, and it took a full thirty seconds before Biana’s grip on her loosened, a faint panting coming from the empty space near her as Biana swayed slightly, leaning heavily on whoever was next to her.
They lingered only a few more seconds, just barely enough for Biana to regain her composure. It was imperative they move on as quickly as possible; they had no clue when that man would be back, but it was certain he would return before they'd blown the building.
As they left she took a brief moment to hide the explosive, somewhere that wouldn’t be so easily visible for when that man returned. It would buy them time, hopefully.
Work quickly, Sophie transmitted, sending the message echoing towards the others. That had been much too close, and her urgency must’ve been obvious because she could feel the others perking up.
She could see her group’s minds lingering on that little girl, the one who’d thrown a tantrum and saved their lives. They’d known, theoretically, that there were people in this building, not just supplies and serums and whatever else created monsters, but they’d reasoned their way through the guilt. Anyone in the building was actively harming the planet and helping produce those creatures in some way; they were all complicit, so the world would be better if it were rid of them. That was something they could deal with if it saved their families, their friends stuck underground as the world above was ravaged.
That little girl was just that: a little girl. She couldn’t have been older than five; she played no part in these deadly games, yet she’d pay the same price.
Sophie hauled them through the hallways, ducking into a particularly shadowed corner away from the balefire light, the rest of her team slightly dazed. Someone's memory of that feisty girl lingered in the mindbubble, a silent question, hesitance. She could feel the other group somewhere else in the facility stop dead at the sight of her, dread tightening their stomachs as their minds cycled through the possibilities. How many just like her were hidden somewhere within these walls, unaware of the horror and grief surrounding them, coating the floors and washing through the halls; how many?
There’s nothing we can do about that right now, she transmitted to everyone, desperately trying to return them to their senses. They couldn’t do anything with everyone in such a state, clouded minds and stumbling limbs, and her panic alongside her upbringing fraught with human horror gave her enough lucidity to be the leading voice of reason. Perhaps they’d abandon the mission--although that was a last resort. They’d already gone to so much trouble--but they couldn’t do anything just standing about, practically begging to be caught.
Their minds sharpened, and someone gave her arm a reassuring squeeze, telling her they were there and they were okay. She exhaled quietly, glancing around anxiously to double-check they’d remained undetected.
Sophie was almost certain she could feel the heavy, fluttering pulses of her friends reverberating through the air as they continued on, jumping at each faint sound. Their near disaster had sombered the group, and they all appeared infinitely more aware of their surroundings, expecting someone to appear any moment.
They weren’t communicating exactly, but when they’d gotten down to their last two explosives she mindlessly reached out into the mindbubble, searching for Fitz and the others. She could feel rather than hear his response, although he seemed to be just as distracted. The others in her own group placed the last two as she scanned the surrounding space for thoughts; they made their way through the halls, peering through windows into the rooms--which were surprisingly abandoned. Apparently, the storage units were not a priority when it came to security.
Or they were guarded by something much more sinister than mere guards. The gouge marks in the walls seemed to leer at her, more ominous than they’d been a moment before.
It turned her stomach, thinking about just how expansive the facility was. It appeared infinite, spanning several stories above and a few below them, each floor impossibly tall and wide. They’d made their way down about two flights, targeting the structural supports of the building so everything would be crushed in the downfall. She intentionally kept herself from thinking about that little girl.
There’s the rendezvous room, Dex said, and Sophie shook herself internally, pulling the group forward. When they’d first come up with the plan, they’d intended to retrace their steps and exit the way they’d come, but it was deemed too high of a risk to sneak back up through the floors of the facility, and they had instead designated the room ahead as a meeting spot. It, too, had large enough vents to crawl through, which eventually made their way to an opening that should allow enough sunlight down for them to leap away with; although, if that didn’t work, they could always work their way through the vents until they’d completely retraced their steps.
Like electricity jolting through water, Fitz reached out to her, giving her a direct line to him to allow her to track his location more easily. The tether between them led to just around the corner up ahead. They were coming from opposite sides, and if you knew exactly what you were looking for you could see a large shadow creeping unnaturally against the wall, so crisp it was practically imperceptible despite her knowing where to look.
Sophie’s group made it to the door first, and Dex’s hands shook slightly as he crouched down to fiddle with the lock. He swiped his imparter across it, but nothing happened. She watched him work through his own eyes, peering through the mindbubble as he let them in. The tension grew as the others caught up to them, Tam’s shadows spreading over them slightly, enough so that Dex could disconnect from the chain, lighting the strain on Biana.
She could see him gnawing slightly at his lip as he tapped on his imparter in quick succession. Someone began breathing deeply and slowly, and she started to scan their surroundings again. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t let them be caught off guard.
Marella shook out her hands, sparks flickering between her fingers, growing with each passing moment that door refused to open. The veins in Wylie’s hands shone for a brief moment as he clenched his fist, the shimmer fading as he relaxed his fingers, glancing around.
There’s a different lock on this door, Dex mumbled, mental voice sounding faintly panicked, as though he were putting effort into sounding in control.
Yeah, no shit, Keefe grumbled, but there was a tension lacing the words that shouldn’t have been there.
Just give me...a...little longer. I think...I’ve got it.
Each pause was accentuated by a small tap as he lost his train of thought, fiddling with the locks. Cold dreaded settled itself in the center of her stomach, reaching dripping tentacles about and curling them around her insides, squeezing tight as the oxygen levels in the room seemed to dip-- and the problem didn’t appear to be the kind she could fix with a few deep breaths.
There was virtually nothing they could do but wait for him to finish, and it was agony to sit there, eyes frantically pacing the gouged walls hoping no one was approaching. Fitz’s mind reached across the mindbubble towards her, and she let him in, pooling their energy together to send pulsing waves of consciousness out around them, searching the nearby areas.
With each pulse that passed over them, the thoughts of their friends flared for a moment before dimming as it passed, but there was no one else nearby. No other flashes of thought near them that they could identify.
Fitz made a muffled sound of distress, and she could see the others’ heads snap up towards the both of them.
Shit, they transmitted. Opening their minds, they showed the others what they’d found--or rather, what was about to find them. A few halls away were thoughts, approaching quickly in their direction.
Holy shit they’re close, Biana breathed. And she was right. Normally, they’d be able to detect someone this close clear and simple, but there was a haze over their thoughts that she’d never seen before. It was as though they’d made their thoughts invisible, and she’d only barely been able to see through the deception.
There was nothing to be done about it, however, except fervently hope Dex could open that goddamn door before that person walked around the corner and saw the conglomeration of shadows and a door opening on its own. Which would happen in approximately...thirty seconds.
C’mon, I’m so close, Dex strained, mental voice shaking.
Footsteps echoed just a few moments away, and she began to bounce in place, squeezing her fingers so tight she was surprised the bones didn’t snap.
GOT IT, he cried, wrenching the door open as the lock unlatched. It was a race as everyone scrambled into the room, the footsteps and their hidden thoughts growing closer and closer each second. She couldn’t even think through the adrenaline, her arms shaking so badly there was nothing but the colors in front of her and her goal.
The door clicked shut behind them, just as the person rounded the corner.
They’d made it. Her breath came out in harsh pants, and none of the sounds around her made much sense, but she just couldn’t take her eyes off that door.
FUCK, Tam yelled, and as a force field flickered into place around them, Sophie finally turned around.
To find a room full of various guards, all of whom were staring back, malice and shock glimmering on their faces. But what was even worse were the caged creatures behind them.
Viscous pale syrup dripped from vats spread throughout the room, pulsing with thick spiderwebs of veins and mucous. Her stomach dropped as she tilted her head back to see them more fully, vaguely humanoid but distorted. Limbs stretched out like sticky candy, skin close to wreaking, appendages ending in blunt bone creeping its way out of the body. Hair floated around them in the thick substances, matted and black and shining.
They seemed dormant, but their appendages twitched in time to their thunderous heartbeat, sending waves throughout their liquid enclosures.
That was all she had the chance to see before the guards closest to them pulled out their melders.
Everything seemed to be moving at twice the speed it was supposed to be, throwing her completely off her rhythm.
Maruca stood in front of them, arms spread wide as she held a force-field around them all, Biana had let go of her, choosing to spend her energy in a fight rather than vanishing them, and it was as they broke contact that she realized just how much of her energy Biana had taken.
She swayed on her feet for a brief moment, casting out her mind and trying to get a sense of how many there were in this room that appeared infinite.
Rows of vats spread farther than she could see, although not all seemed to be occupied. None of them should’ve been. They’d gone out of their way to ensure they’d stay far away from any creatures, no matter the potential benefits. There was nothing that could be done against them.
Maruca grunted as pangs clattered against the force field, trying to find a way through. Sophie’s breathing quickened as she realized she couldn’t feel the presence of anyone in the room. It was although she was entirely alone. She couldn’t feel Fitz next to her, or anyone under the force field, and she couldn’t detect anyone outside of it.
There was an ominous silence, despite the shouts of the people around her. Security personnel were murmuring into communication devices, alerting others of a “disturbance in sector 34, room B12.” But no one in her group said a word. They’d learned not to. They spoke in the mindspace however, hysterical and screaming.
This was not the room they were supposed to be in.
There was nothing they could do as warning lights began to flash around them, strobing effects searing her eyes as alarm bells tolled, shrill and vibrating.
It couldn’t have been more than five seconds since they’d walked through that door.
She steeled herself, drawing on that knot of power she kept stored beneath her ribs, feeling the energy channel from her chest towards her head, building and building until almost painful. But she couldn’t release it. She couldn’t attack through the force field, and Maruca couldn’t drop it because then those melders would hit them head-on and they couldn’t withstand that.
Everyone else was in a similar predicament.
Then it got worse.
She didn’t think it could get worse.
How could it get worse?
The creature in the tank seemed to be reacting to either the lights or the sounds--it didn’t really matter which. What mattered was that it was moving; it was opening its gaping maw and screaming within that tank, air bubbles shooting their way towards the ceiling and lingering, a never-ending stream as its body began to buck and thrash sporadically, sharp limbs colliding with glass.
The cylindrical vat cracked, a spiderweb of broken veins spreading from the point of impact, growing with each collision as it began pounding against the glass.
The muffled sounds it made were absolutely horrible, and she slapped her palms over her ears, grimacing. But what truly stopped her heart was the sound of falling glass, wet and raining down, clattering about and bouncing off the force field.
Because now the creature was loose.
The figures who had been attacking them now swore, looking back and forth between each other before darting out of the room; their weapons still raised despite them being little threat beneath their bubble.
The door latched behind them, and Sophie seemed to come to the horrifying reality at the same time as the others.
They had no way out of this room.
SCATTER! Maruca screamed as she dropped the force field, and everyone complied, darting around the room, trying to get out of the way, hoping hoping hoping that creature wasn’t the exceptionally violent kind, and that it would leave them alone.
All of the creatures they’d encountered so far had been aggressive in some way or another--some simply left you alone unless you got close, others would attack on sight. They’d started a notebook to keep track of all the kinds they knew about, but this one was entirely new.
The only solace that could be found was that it seemed to be the only one that escaped its tank, the others appearing undisturbed.
Watching it from behind a stack of crates, Sophie could see it growing more and more agitated, banging its appendages against what seemed to be its head in distress, a warbled screech piercing the air as it began to flail about.
She ducked at the distinct sound of tables and boxes being crushed as the creature stumbled, tearing at the ground. She began to frantically search the room, looking for something--anything--that could help them at all. There had to be another exit, there had to be something they could do.
Her eyes met Keefe’s across the room, and for the strangest moment, she wasn’t concerned about the creature killing them all, or the guards capturing them and holding them hostage, or their explosives going off when they were still in the building. She was just worried he could feel her panic and it would be too overwhelming for him to concentrate.
That was it.
Her mind clicked the pieces together and she sank to the floor, pressing her back against the shelves embedded in the wall behind her, putting her fingers to her temples. The creature was overwhelmed and overstimulated, and it was reacting poorly. She’d never tried to communicate with or inflict on any of the creatures before...but she’d never had a reason to.
She just hoped it would work.
Using that gathered energy, she reached out towards the creature, a mental hand fumbling in the dark. But it appeared she couldn’t...find it. There was just...nothingness...wherever she reached.
Opening her eyes slightly, she squinted up at the creature, which was still stumbling around in response to the overstimulation. The visual helped her narrow in on its mind, and as she reached for it she began to realize... its mind was the silence. She hadn’t been able to detect the mind of the people in the room or her friends because this creature’s mind was so incredibly silent; it broadcasted a blanket over everyone nearby.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING, someone hissed into the mindbubble. But she was so far gone that it barely registered as more than a gentle, far-off whisper.
Desperately trying to control herself, Sophie began bringing forward peaceful, calmer memories; she had to reach further back than she’d expected; life hadn’t been particularly relaxing as of late. Finally, when her head seemed to overflow with calming vibes, she sent them out like a shockwave around her, a ripple in the empty.
Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention could identify the exact moment the wave hit the creature. Its spine went rigid, snapping straight as its head jerked up, their gazes meeting. Each noise fizzled out in the same instant. No one dared breath in that poignant silence, the space almost empty now, and for the briefest moment, she wished that it weren’t so empty, so quiet.
Her wish was answered.
There was no warning as the creature’s head cocked to the side, staring her down with those empty, glistening black eyes, no warning as it lunged towards her.
Well FUCK, was the only thought in her head as it careened towards her, stumbling as though it’d only learned to walk that day, which it might have.
Its movements were uncoordinated, but that didn’t make them any less violent as the tables around them crashed into each other as it crashed onto all limbs, moving with such speed it could cross the room in less than a blink.
She couldn’t move. She couldn’t think. Her friends were screaming, but she couldn’t make a sound. Her eyelids were fluttering shut as that suffocating silence pressed in closer and closer.
The creature was charging straight towards her and she couldn’t think. It lost its balance, coming down hard on top of her, but its limbs were too long to crush her, and instead, it was crashing into the shelves behind her and crushing glass and breaking rock and its own bones and she. Couldn’t. Think.
Crystal shattered behind her as the shelves were wrenched from the walls, the creature desperately trying to right itself, shrieking that inhuman sound. Vials began to rain down behind her, crashing on the hard floor.
The noxious scents of the spilling bottles began to flood the room, visible gases blooming from where the colors mixed, sizzling and bubbling on the floor. The creature bucked its head, scrambling away, limbs bashing the floor as it dashed far, far away into the hollows of the room.
The silence was back, but this time it was accompanied by fumes and watering eyes as everyone pushed to their feet, stumbling and coughing.
We havetoget...Dex began, eyeing the frothing liquids….out ofhere. He was standing so far away. How had he gotten there? She might’ve been nodding her head, agreeing with him, but without the adrenaline, everything was...so slow...and the floor seemed liquid and plush.
She couldn’t see who began coughing, their whole body wracked in a fit as the vapors became so thick she couldn’t see. It occurred to her too late to try holding her breath, her eyelids fluttering as she stumbled a few steps, but she didn’t actually know where she was going.
A thud sounded behind her, and she turned, the room seeming to lag as she did so. Biana. It had been...Biana. She’d made the sound. Her body was crumpled on the ground, unconscious. That should’ve sent a spike of alarm through her, telling her to move. To go. Get out.
But she couldn’t think. And the others quickly followed, a series of thuds echoing throughout the space as one by one, they succumbed to the fumes.
Sophie was still standing, and she briefly made eye contact with Dex--why was he so far--watching him fumble with his imparter. An explosive rumbling sounded in the distance, growing stronger and closer with each moment her eyes remained open. She was upright only long enough to see Dex fall before she felt her muscles give, and she crashed down hard.
Wings AU Taglist:
@loudnerdfest @rainbowtay-11 @cadence-talle @pyrokinetic-loser @ahecktonoffandomsinoneblog @itstiger720 @loverofallthingssmart @cowboypossume @jolieharkness @wings-of-hell-and-beyond @shellyseashell @blossomjenniie @imaramennoodle @booknerdddddd @akotlcblog
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